Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – In his campaign for office a little more than two and a half years ago, the Democratic party’s candidate in state Senate District 44, Michael Brooks Jimenez, garnered 4,384 votes, and lost. In Tuesday’s special election, on the ballot as Michael Brooks, he brought in only 1,975 supporters, but won.
The win for the Democrat was a pick-up for the party of Jefferson, leading to a joyful statement circulated to Oklahoma news organizations.
In the earlier balloting – held November 4, 2014 with Ralph Shortey as the GOP incumbent and victor, and an independent candidate drawing 6.5 percent of the total — 10,482 people voted. In the July 11, 2017 special election, 3,619 people voted. (The special election was necessitated when Shortey, facing felony charges for sex with a minor, resigned.)
On May 4, Dale Denwalt of The Oklahoman touched on the name difference for the Democratic nominee, noting the candidate “operates a law firm using the hyphenated last name. By phone …, he said many people in the community know him as Mike Brooks and he wants to keep it simple during the election.
“‘To try and eliminate some of that confusion, I put my name as the way it is registered to vote,” said Brooks, 46.
“The Jimenez addition, he said, was a cultural tribute to his mother. He also said not using it for the election isn’t an abandonment of his Hispanic heritage. ‘I’m not ashamed where I come from. I’ve been here my whole life.”
In campaign literature and on his website, the newly-elected senator described himself as “a dedicated member of St. James Catholic Church.”
In the recent race, he enjoyed a strong fundraising advantage over the Republican hopeful, Joe Griffin. Through the last contributions report, the Democrat had secured about five times more financial support the GOP nominee.
Much of that edge in dollars came from a May 15 event hosted by former Governors Brad Henry and David Walters, as well as well-known businessmen Jalal and Mohammad Farzaneh. Invitations to the event touted backing for “our attorney friend and businessman Michael Brooks Jimenez” in his “campaign for State Senate.”
Sponsor levels for the fete, held at the Melody Banquet Hall in Moore, ranged from $125 to $2,700.
The recent special election was also Griffin’s second run for office. A former reporter and past press secretary for two Republican speakers of the Oklahoma House,Griffin lost last November’s election for the House District 92 seat (held previously by Richard Morrissette, a Democrat). The winner in that race was Forrest Bennett.
In March, several well-known elected Republicans with ties to District 44 endorsed Griffin, including these Oklahoma County officials: Commissioner Brian Maughan, Clerk David Hooten, Court Clerk Rick Warren and Assessor Leonard Sullivan. Also backing Griffin were state Reps. Leslie Osborn (Budget Committee chairman), Jon Echols (now the House majority leader), Kevin West and Bobby Cleveland. Other prominent Republicans lending Griffin their support were former state Reps. Paul Wesselhoft, Mike Turner and Justin Wood.
In this campaign and in the 2016 race, Griffin stressed his views as a multi-issue conservative. In the special election he stressed a “common sense agenda,” including economic development, tax relief, safer streets. He promised, based in part on his record in the news business to be a “taxpayer watchdog.”
In biographical information on his campaign website, Griffin (a New Jersey native) stressed his blue collar roots. Griffin also noted his attendance at Sacred Heart, a Catholic Church in the Capitol Hill area.
In the biographical sketch on the Democratic nominee’s campaign website, “Michael” was profiled. He is best known in the community as an immigration lawyer, but does legal work in other areas as well, including criminal defense.
As for public policy, the ultimate victor stressed he is not a politician, saying he believes in the state “paying our teachers a living wage, improving our schools, and creating high-paying jobs.” He has said he opposed tax increases on “working families.”
Twice in the days before the special general election, Oklahomans for Life (the state’s leading grass roots organization focused on opposition to abortion and other life issues) pointed to the race as one of two that featured pro-life candidates. The group’s leader, Tony Lauinger, wrote: “In state Senate District 44, Republican Joe Griffin gave 100 percent pro-life answers to all questions on our Oklahomans For Life survey. The Democratic candidate, Michael Brooks, did not answer and return his survey to us.”
The Oklahoma Democratic party celebrated the Senate win in a press release received on Wednesday (July 12), also touting a win in House District 75 (in the Tulsa area).
The political party’s statement said the twin wins “prove that Oklahoma is not a ‘Republican’ state and voters are ready for change at the State Capitol. The ODP congratulates Representative-Elect Karen Gaddis and Senator-Elect Michael Brooks for their well-run campaigns and victories as they step forward to fight for our Democratic values.
“When Oklahoma voters have the opportunity to get to know candidates and talk about the real issues facing Oklahoma – without the distracting background noise of national politics–they vote for Democrats.
“Oklahomans proved … that they believe their children should have good schools, affordable health care, and that everyone should be able to work for a living wage. Those are the values of the Democratic Party, and that’s why we’ll continue to surprise the Republicans in the remaining 2017 special elections, and in 2018.